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The first 311 grouping formed in Omaha, Nebraska in 1988 without some of the current members. The name came when bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills and the band's original guitarist were skinny dipping. wills got away; the guitarist didn't. He was cited with indecent exposure, violation code 311.
By 1992, the current line-up of Wills, Nick Hexum, Tim Mahoney, Chad Sexton, and Doug “SA” Martinez was in place and they began honing their brand of alternative rock with infusions of ska, reggae, punk, rap, and more.
A couple of small-batch independent releases (Dammit! and Unity) preceded the making of 1992's Hydroponic. Six-track demo in hand, the boys moved from Omaha to Los Angeles and secured a deal with Capricorn Records within three months of landing.
The following year saw their first full release, Music. Although the track “Do You Right” garnered some attention at Modern Rock Radio, the album failed to do much business.
311 financed their own tour and borrowed an RV from Sexton's dad. En route to a hometown show, the RV caught fire, as did the VW bus they were towing with all of their equipment inside. The band members leaped through flames to escape without injury, but lost all of their gear to the fire. The incident is referred to in the song “Omaha Stylee.”
Their second studio effort, Grassroots, cracked the Billboard Top 200 and made it all the way to number 8 on the Heatseekers chart. With a little extra love from college radio stations around the country, 311 began developing a fan base.
In 1995, their third, eponymous album started to make some strides. The late-blooming single “Down” climbed to the top of the Modern Rock chart and, with the help of a video on MTV, the band landed an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Another single followed suit, as did an appearance with David Letterman, the sum of which catapulted the album into triple-platinum territory.
With a solid touring schedule to help, 1997's Transistor debuted at number 4 on the Billboard Top 200 and quickly sold more than a million copies. Combined with the follow-on success of 1999's Soundsystem, 311's back catalog also got a lift with Music and Grassroots both being certified gold.
In 2000, the band anointed their own holiday: March 11 (3/11). Every other year, they gather with thousands of their fans and put on a massive event. From 2000 to 2008, 311 Day took place in New Orleans with crowds reaching 14,000. The concert is usually filmed for release via television or DVD.
From Chaos (2001) and Evolver (2003) both achieved enough chart, radio, and sales success to keep things going for the Omaha quintet. However, it was their 2004 cover of the Cure's “Love Song” that made the biggest mark with a number 59 placement on the Hot 100 list.
Supporting 2005's Don't Tread on Me, 311 inaugurated a new annual event in 2006 with their Summer Unity Tour. Over the subsequent years, a number of artists have joined forces with 311 for Unity, including Ziggy Marley, Snoop Dogg, Papa Roach, The Offspring, and Pepper.
The band took a much-deserved break and, while they continued to tour off-cycle, didn't have another full album released until 2009's Uplifter which entered the Billboard Top 200 albums at number 3.
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